Kurdistan, Rojava, Syria, Cizire, co-operatives, cooperatives, co-operative, cooperative, co-op, co-ops, solidarity, solidarity economy, workers co-op, workers co-operative, workers cooperative, cooperative economy, solidarity economy

The Social Economy in Rojava

This article by Dr Ahmed Yousef is reposted from Kurdish Question, where it appeared on 26th May, 2016.

Original source

* Kurdish Question has edited this paper to make it more legible in the English language.

If we are exerting some effort and diving into the study of the history of social and economic relations since the beginning of human societies in Mesopotamia, in the Middle East or in any other area on the globe, we will notice that the nature of social relations and the degree of influence of a class on the other categories determine the economic relations in those communities.

Accordingly, there are many definitions of the economic and those definitions differ depending on economic schools. There are a multiplicity of definitions such as political economy, capitalist economy, socialist economy and the international economy.

These expressions indicate a certain economic, social, and political situation and the nature of the relations between groups in one community or between diverse communities, but they do not reflect the reality of economic science.

Historical facts assure us that the economy becomes a science to meet the needs of communities, it isn’t a science to maximise wealth for specific groups

From this definition we must know that the economy would not be economical if it is not social, in other words, any economy that is not aimed at achieving the social welfare of all members of society cannot be defined as economy, but is a sophisticated mechanism for financial, intellectual and cultural looting

This definition of economics is the theoretical basis for the development of economic and social policies in Rojava.

Rojava: geography, population and wealth

Geographically Rojava stretches from the far east to the far west of Northern Syria, an area that is a natural extension of the Kurdish regions of Iraq and Turkey. It is named Rojava (West) because it is located in the western part of Kurdistan, which is divided between four Middle Eastern states: Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria, since the First World War.

Rojava covers a 18300 km2 area distributed between three cantons: Jazira (Cizire), Kobane (Kobani) and Afrin. Jazira canton is the largest Kurdish provinces in Rojava, and it is rich in esoteric wealth, especially oil and natural gas, while Kobanî canton is rich in the production of grain, cotton, and Afrin canton is famous throughout Syria for its production of olive oil.

The GNP ratio in Rojava ranges between 50-55% of the gross national product (GNP) in Syria, while the proportion of the population in Rojava is between 18-20% of the total population of Syria, its total population being 20 million.

The concept and the characteristics of the social economy

Social economy is similar on external merit with the social market economy, these concepts can be mixed up and seem the same on the surface.

However we will fall into a fatal error if we assume that this similarity means they are the same, because it will lead us to believe that social economy is a natural reaction that has appeared as a result of particular economic conditions in the capitalist system.

However social economy is quite different, to understand it Mr. Abdullah Öcalan goes back to the beginning of the emergence of economics as a science, and explains that its job is limited to meeting the basic needs of human beings within the limited resources available.

Mr. Öcalan says that in a social economy the use value must be greater than the exchange value.

Based on the above we can define social economy as a science, which seeks to secure the needs of the community outside and away from the monopoly of the means of production.

The characteristics of the social economy

1 – social economy is anti-liberal economy, which is not a centrally planned economy.

2 – achieves industrial and ecological integration.

3 – economy is open to all ecological activities (agricultural, industrial and commercial).

4 – economy based on ethical values.

The principles of the social economy system in Rojava

Basic principles Organisational principles
Aquisition is sacred Operation policies
Ecology Social security through the commons
Use value is greater than exchange value Non – monopoly market
Communal Income distribution policies


The foundations of the social economy in Rojava

A- Core protection means adopting the economic values that protect the nation’s democracy, as well as social economic institutions such as the environmental institutions.

B- Mentality of the social economy means the mind of Social Economy and identifying the basic points that represent scientifically and historically the examples and justification for the adoption of this methodology. The most important of these points are as follows:

i – Communes

The common organisation of life in all social and economic spheres. In Rojava we began to establish the social and economic communes in three cantons, in all villages and towns. Today we have about (400) communes only in Jazira Canton, which is developing daily. The number of members in each commune is about 20-35 persons.

ii – The social economy and the importance of choice

Social economy is all the practices in the context of the communes, which means taking economy out of its narrow concept of only profit.

– It is worth mentioning that the social economy does not acquire legitimacy from laws, but acquires its legitimacy from the nature of society and ethics.

iii. Social Economy Options in Rojava

1) Democratisation option: social economy loses its meaning if it is not viewed as a democracy itself.

We believe that any economic activity without social goals will inevitably lead to encourage the emergence of individualism, and thus will result in the reduction of democratic practices.

2) The ecological shift option: This is very important for democratic transformation, because the economic practices are applied ecological practices.

3) The social economy is teamwork: Participating in communes through the following activities:

  1. Distribution: the distribution of the outputs of economic activities is for everyone across the communes.
  2. Support and assistance: There are a lot practices under this item in the capitalist system, such as charities, small loans etc. However, in the social economy, we see that all economic activities revolve in a circle of support and assistance that may occur between the communes in the villages or in the cities, because the nature of this economy is based on cooperatives. Nowadays we are starting to establish cooperatives in Afrin Canton (health, agriculture, industrial) cooperatives.
  3. Demanding justice:
  4. Freedom: means democracy, which is an important pillar of the democratic nation theory.


iii. How the social economy considers the core economic activities

1. Production: there is a private sector for production, but the most important form of production is the production through the communes and cooperatives.

2. Working: all workers must work in the communal projects.

3. Ownership: ownership is sacred.

4. Market: the market is a main part of social economy, but the use-value must be greater than the exchange-value, and there is no stock market.

5. Technology: is very important and depends on ecological activities and balance.

6. Industry: there is no industry if it not ecological. This is very important in our economic and social system.

7. Economic progress: we depend on balanced development theory between three cantons.

8. Trade: the main form of trade is the trade between commons. This form foregrounds and develops the importance of use-value.

9. Finance and funding: the banking system is not like capitalist system; it is only to save money and help the communes. The resource of financing is the output of the projects; there is non-centralism in the financing system, because this system depends on communes.


Elements of the success of the social economy in Rojava

  1. Applying the principle of democratic nation, which calls for equality among all components of Rojava, i.e. Kurds, Arabs and all others depending on Canton.
  2. Rojava’s possession of natural resources and the diversity of those riches.
  3. Existence as a great human wealth in Rojava.
  4. Weakness of a controlling system of exploitation in economic activity.
  5. Availability of the morality, which is necessary for adopting the social economy.
  6. The difficulty arising from the experience of being the first in the Middle East.
  7. Migration of scientific talent as a result of the poor conditions that prevailed in Syria in the past three years.
  8. The weakness of the fiscal potential to achieve the first breakthrough in more power.

Obstacles of success of the social economy in Rojava

The institutional structure of the social economy in Rojava

A – Economic Academies: For graduating economists

B – Communes: Targeting

  1. Social education
  2. Division of work
  3. Good health
  4. Securing basic need

C – Cooperatives: Targeting

  1. Securing basic needs
  2. Teamwork

D – Small and medium private sector